Claire is very excited about going to Japan.
I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have a good sense for how long the flight is going to be, or what’s going to happen to us once we get there (not that we have a very good agenda), but she’s been counting down the days for the last month. It’s the first thing she mentions when we pick her up from school. “Guess how many days it is until we go to Japan!” Which is followed immediately by “Guess how many days to Spring Break!”
Spring Break, FYI, starts the day after we leave for Japan, because Minneapolis kids had so many Polar Vortex days that they had to lose a couple off their vacation. Claire is pretty pleased that she gets to miss a day so that she can go to Japan. It was not our intent to pull her out of school for this, but what can you do? The school calendar changed way after we bought our tickets, and I’m pretty sure the kiddo is going to learn way more from our trip than she would in class that Friday.
This past weekend, we did the bulk of our trip-related shopping. We promised Claire we’d get her an adult-sized carryon, and she’s been asking when that would happen for a month. We trooped into REI with a dream of a bag and potentially some travel-friendly dresses for me, and ended up with two new pairs of shoes, two dresses, a new Osprey carryon and a Patagonia messenger bag. I’m not sure how it happened, but when I wasn’t looking REI became a Target-like shopping experience for me – in with the intent to purchase a single item, out with ten times that much. It took all my willpower not to add new running socks to the pile.
When Joel and I went to Budapest last summer, we did so with a loose understanding of the city and a half-perused travel guide on Joel’s iPad. We put absolutely no pressure on ourselves to see or do anything. We slept until at least 10AM every day, wandered out of the hotel and found a place for lunch, and then spent the rest of the day walking around the city and taking it in. If we happened to see a sign for something that seemed important, we’d head that way. In our meanderings, we saw most of the city on foot and covered pretty much all the things the guide books told us to see. The one exception was the Turkish baths, which we both agreed were beautiful and uniquely Budapest, but somehow didn’t strike our fancy. (It was in this manner that we discovered the treat Kürtőskalács, a log of dough cooked over an open fire with cinnamon and sugar. One day, I will figure out how to make this gluten free at home, mark my words!)
The most we ever planned was dinner, and even that planning was a mix of talking to the concierge, half-heartedly searching the web, and finding restaurants that looked interesting while we walked during the day. And, okay, we took the train to Vienna one day, but booked a hotel the night before on the web, bought one-way tickets so we could return whenever, and found a place to eat in the cab on the way to the city center.
This laissez-faire traveling is totally my speed. As much as I like to plan things, I also like for vacation to be VACATION. Having a jam-packed agenda just makes it feel like work. (Like yesterday, for instance, when I had five half-hour meetings back-to-back.)
With seven days to go until Japan, though, Joel and I are both realizing this plan doesn’t really work with Claire. We can’t expect her to walk 10 miles a day and stop into whatever restaurant happens to be nearby. I mean, I guess we could? But that seems like a recipe for disaster. At the very least, we need to have a list of possible things to do each day and an understanding of where we can eat with the smallest amount of hassle.
That’s what’s on the agenda for this weekend, along with stocking up on suitcase-friendly snacks and doing laundry and making sure everyone has enough underpants and socks. Joel is going out of town on a shoot Sunday and doesn’t return until Wednesday, so we’ve got about three days to get this wrapped up. Oddly, the anxiety I was feeling when we booked the trip – the fear that such an undertaking would be more overwhelming than fun – has pretty much dissipated. I wouldn’t say I’m rearing to go, but I’m warming up to the possibilities.